Saturday, October 15, 2011

Creating Information Technology Roadmaps, Getting Started

Creating technology roadmaps can be hard. Mostly because you are trying to predict the future. And predicting the future is, well, unpredictable. So coming up with a technology roadmap for a specific subject or practice area narrows the horizon and could increase success. Gaining as much knowledge of the narrowed area by reading, reviewing and referencing as much existing information and related predictions will help greatly. Essentially, you want to gather all the applicable technology and subject area information you possibly can regarding the present and future and try to gestalt a technology roadmap.

The important factors in creating technology roadmaps are;
  1. Narrow your subject area and context
  2. This is important mostly due to narrowing the number of attributes influencing the future. The subject area is somewhat self explanatory, is it; higher education, medical, financial, legal, etc. Context would be; mobile technology for adult customers, wealth management for families, etc.

    One important attribute here would be to identify any serious threat(s) to the financial health of your organization due to a disruptive technology or competitor. These unforeseen threats rarely occur if you have been doing regular roadmapping... for they should identify the threats...
  3. Know your audience
  4. The audience who will reference the roadmap is important for they will read it based on their decision making needs. The audience can be as varied as; senior management, customers, business partners even competitors.
  5. Acknowledge that roadmaps are visual tools
  6. People have become used to roadmaps being visual tools, invest the time in finding a visual representation that suits your audience. Engage your audience early, present a visual framework and get feedback. Improve the visual. This has two benefits; it assists in the audience learning how to use the roadmap and assists the creator in understanding the audience and the issues of why they need the roadmap.
  7. You don't know the destination, only important attributes of the journey
  8. When predicting the future with a technology roadmap there is no destination other than the many factors that influence the decisions you make on the journey. The technology roadmap will provide a topographical map and the roadways that are available to you when making decisions. It is assessing the current location and the things of importance around you (which will change through time) that will determine which route to take.
  9. Sometimes the journey is the destination
  10. It is having to make the decisions about the journey that are the technology decisions required by the organization. Using the roadmap to know where you are and the current surroundings is the what the technology roadmap is for. It helps in making the technology decisions right in front of you, no more. Really that is what is needed anyhow.
  11. The roadmap should align with the organizations vision and strategy
  12. The roadmap should be derived from the organizations vision and strategy. If their is no vision or strategy this should be done before the roadmapping exercise has begun.
  13. The technology roadmap will influence the organizations tactical plan
  14. Also derived from the organizations visions and strategy are the tactical plan. The tactical plan and the roadmap work together to drive the individual projects tasked with implementing the vision and strategy.
Step 1. Start writing openly about these seven factors and how they apply to your roadmapping exercise. Be open and transparent about your thinking an seeking feedback is very important. Using an internal (or privately external) blogging approach and allowing people to comment would be a great way to be open, transparent and solicit input.

Step 2. Begin to gather all the technology roadmap material you can. Search high and low, contact your vendors, contact your peers, investigate industry publications, look for other technology roadmaps. Leave no stone unturned.

Step 3. begin to create a visual representation of what you are finding. Be creative, seek different sources for inspiration. Publish the visual frequently to begin soliciting feedback, and developing a shared understanding. It is the feedback and shared understanding that will improve the accuracy of the roadmap.

For a growing list of references on this subject feel free to follow my roadmap tag in delicious;

Follow-up Posts
If you have read this far you may be interested in the follow-up posts I have written that actually implement what I have described here;